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To attempt to bind Shakspeare by laws was as futile as to attempt to bind the ocean with bulrushes, or track a comet. Genius makes its own laws. The rules of criticism are based on what ? on nature; and the exercise of genius, whose very province is to create, is the highest exercise of nature. It is thus genius supercedes laws, or makes them. Hence they depend on genius, not genius on them; and it is thus that Shakspeare defies and with propriety, most of the established rules of Aristotle. And Addison's criticisms on Milton too—what is to be said of them? The reputation of Addison, truly, ought to shield him from the imputation of bad motives; and it is to be hoped that the kindred affinity which is thought to exist betwixt great intellects, made him arrogate to himself the high honor of vindicating such a man as John Milton. But we must have other views of human nature from those we now entertain, and find more true virtuously chivalric action in the world, before we concede even to Addison the honor of having acted from perfectly pure motives. The truth of it is, men cannot act disinterestedly. It is easy enough to theorize and see how men might do it, and human nature had that perfection of which it is capable; but so long as it is what it is, the impossibility in amount becomes a physical one. Channing of Boston, too, has won a laurel from Milton ; and, it may be said with truth, he has won it nobly. But with all respect to the erudite Doctor be it also said, he had two objects here which do not resolve themselves into just such motives as we would see inspire a man of his talents, especially when he approaches a man like Milton. And here we are sorry for the Doctor; for not only would he win a leaf for himself, but he would also make honest John a Unitarian, than whom I think that sect would have never found a more sturdy opposer, had they made their appearance in his day. And we are especially sorry, since with all the Doctor's readings, mutilated quotings, and undoubted genius, he has only evinced the folly of his undertaking. But the cases here referred to are not the only ones in point; the literary history of nations is full of examples. It seems a tax that all great men pay for their greatness, that they must sometimes be handled by sharpers; for there are such numbers of hangers-on, such hosts of shallow pretenders to the high office of criticism, that every giant gets his share of it. This presents indeed in something of a new light the advantages to be derived from our great men; since they serve to support a crowd of starvelings, who else were “eaten of famine.’ It might however be equally urged, that it were better to throw away pen and ink, and betake themselves to the making of pipes and periwigs, or some other honorable calling. For myself, I confess, I have never been greatly in admiration of commentators and antiquarians, or addicted to commentary and antiquarian researches. Unfortunately for the world, there's an old gentleman called ‘the past,’ and he has so much of the old gentlemanly rerogative, viz. self-appropriation, that he merits the cognomen of }. of Monopolists. Now everything that falls into his clutches is sure to change, and that too with such outrageous rapidity, that your common sense confesses you hardly know your own boyhood. He has the faculty of throwing a sort of dimness over every thing, so that black becomes white, white black, and both all the colors in the philosophic spectrum; and in addition to this, the eye of a man is so constructed, that it can no more look into the past than it can discern the things in the back of the head. Besides, there have been a great many liars in the world, some who lied for the love of it, and some for the love of money; and they have been accustomed to belie the good and praise the bad so much, that history is nothing but a tissue of falsehood. Now with these difficulties in the way, I have always thought it the safest course to avoid antiquarians, manuscript hunters, posthumous paper commenders, and every thing connected with them; and I have universally observed that those like me in this particular, less often make themselves ridiculous; since they do not always venerate every fragment they chanced to pick up as a piece of a mummy, nor every scratch on a tomb-stone as a key to the hieroglyphic mysteries of the Priesthood of ancient Egypt. Antiquarian research forsooth, is but a thankless business; as much so as tracing out genealogies. One's father was rich, his grand father was a judge, and he very naturally concludes his great grand father a lord. He looks, and lo! he was the village fiddler. Yale College.
“And is become as black as if besmeared with hell.”—Henry VIII.
“The Boots will bear witness.”
THE fierce contests between the rival firms of “Robert Warren’ and ‘Day & Martin,” manufacturers of blacking for all his Christian Majesty's subjects, which so long and so violently agitated the British nation, were not unheeded in our remote and quiet republic. The storm which rose to a tempest in and about the ‘sea-girt isle,” reached our distant shores only in gentle ripples—with our transAtlantic brethren these strises were ‘wars,’ with us only ‘rumors of wars.’ These bitter contentions have now ceased, the acrimony which they excited, has subsided—friend may now meet friend
without ‘angrily asking an explanation' as to the blacking on his boots—masters and servants, fathers and sons, are no longer ranged under the hostile banners of opposing parties—the black flag of piratical cruelty carries not half the terror to the hearts of its wretched victims, which the dark-minded, dark-visaged agents of these proud antagonists inspired in their fractious customers.
Why then, the sensitive reader may ask, why disturb the shades of the belligerents, why call up the harrowing scenes, which can only torture the imagination, without informing the mind, or improving the heart 2
For the same reason that the anatomist dissects the reeking corse, and lays bare the hideous secret of the grave, that he may heal the living—that the faithful historian gives a place in his annals, alike to the records of honor and prosperity and good faith, and to the darker picture of guilt, and woe, and treachery—that the moralist, while he portrays the fair form and fond allurements of virtue, exposes also the painted carcass of soul vice—for this same reason do I call up these direful reminiscences, that we may not sleep on in fancied security from civil discord, while the prolific source of intestine commotion remains undried—while the fierce spirits of Chapel and Bell (oh that a chapel and bell should ever be at variance) are only held in abeyance, and are ready ‘on the shortest notice,’ as tradesmen say, to rush together in terrible collision. If such a sell catastrophe ever should occur, well might we exclaim with the Roman poet, ‘Bella, horrida Bella l' All the squabbles of the abolitionists, ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing, even a bond fide rebellion of
‘the sooty slave
but this is the dark side of the subject, and we dismiss it with pleasure, to bring it up shortly in a brighter aspect—simply expressing our wonder, that when that accomplished diplomatist and far-sighted politician, J. Q. Adams, was enumerating the many dangers to which our hard-pressed ship of state would soon be exposed, though he included the black, he utterly omitted to mention the blacking, warfare. The German Teufelsdrockh in his last work, which we are acquainted with only in its English dress, in the chapter on the ‘Dandiacal body, makes the following acute and apposite remarks:
“A dandy is a clothes-wearing man; a man whose trade, office, and existence, consists in the wearing of clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and Person, is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of clothes, wisely and well; so that as others dress to live, he lives to dress. The all-importance of clothes, which a German professor of unequalled learning and acumen, writes his enormous volume to demonstrate, has sprung up in the intellect of the dandy without effort, like an instinct of genius. He is inspired with cloth, a Poet of cloth.
W 0 L. i. i. 5
What a mystic would call a “divine idea of cloth, is born with him; and this, like other such ideas, will express itself outwardly, or wring his heart asunder with unutterable throes.”
What the ‘Dandiacal body’ is to clothes in general, and their embellishment, that was Warren to boots in particular, and their well being; but with this remarkable and ennobling distinction, the efforts of the ‘Dandiacal body’ centre and cease in himself, while those of Warren were inspired by a deep-seated and liberal philanthropy— he was humble and unostentatious, he cared not to shine himself, so long as the universal understanding of all Europe was enlightened by reflections from his genius.
The spectacle of a man of powerful intellect and cultivated taste, devoting himself with persevering energy to the development of some great principle, which shall ameliorate the condition of society and place his name among the benefactors of his race, never sails to elicit the admiration and compel the esteem of mankind. It is the province of the divine to investigate and set forth the idea of duty; of the philosopher to examine and defend the idea of the true; of the poet to cull out, and unfold, and commend the idea of the beautiful; and in proportion as they succeed in drawing out and enforcing upon the attention of their fellow men their respective principles, do they deserve and receive the homage of their cotemporaries and of future ages. Robert Warren devoted his life to the complete development of the idea of the black. How unremitted were his exertions, how self-denying his sacrifices, and how unquenchable his ardor in the pursuit, and how brilliant the result, are familiar matters to every well-read man. His biographer informs us that he was called to encounter all the stumbling-blocks that rivals and enemies could throw in his way, that he was assailed by all the weapons which a superstitious prejudice against the practicers of the ‘black art' could employ, and even toiled on under the dejecting influence of unrequited love, to reach the ultimatum of blackness, combined with an infinite susceptibility of polish.
It is said that the preeminence of genius over common minds, which appears so startling at first sight, might, if the secret and minute history of the possessor were known, be discerned to be more the creation of circumstance and appropriate training, than the gift of nature. If we possessed the requisite materials for such an investigation, it would be curious to trace the steps of Warren's lofty intellect, till it had attained the perfect idea cf blackness, and watch the various phases of his progress till he reached the grand consummation of his ‘real Japan Atramentum.” But as these materials are wanting, we are left to the uncertainties of conjecture. Perhaps the first notion, asterwards sublimated by the alchemy of his genius into a noble theory, and by the alchemy of his workshop again precipitated into a pot of blacking, this first notion may have been impressed upon his brain by the sturdy blows of some youthful combatant, disfiguring his visual organs, and thus early teaching him to look with a gloomy eye on things. This first notion once impressed, how wonderfully was it fostered by propitious circumstances—how in his boyish readings did he sigh to think that the dark ages were long gone by—how did he delight to dwell upon the prowess of his favorite hero of romance, Edward, the black prince. How often would he with Shakspeare's demons
—‘willfully himself exile from light, And ever consort with the black-browed night.'
How especially did he cherish in his garden the dark-petaled hyacinth, and how ardently did he desire to ‘paint the lily.” And aware of the reciprocal influence of mind and body, how obstinately did he persist, in spite of the oppugnation of his stomach, in confining his diet to a yard of black-pudding three times a day. How affectionately, yet inquisitively, did he regard that portion of our race which were, in his opinion, blessed with a black skin—how boldly did he indulge the idea of being able to “mimic nature in her choicest dyes.” And how at length, did this long-cherished hope, as Teufelsdrockh says, “express itself outwardly, and wring his heart asunder with unutterable throes.”
The character of Mr. Warren is too little understood on this side of the Atlantic, and the moral dignity of his purposes and attainments too little appreciated. Only one of our authors, and he is the most classical one, seems to have fully grasped the conception of his character. It is thus that Washington Irving concludes a chaste and eloquent sketch of the person and life of this wonderful man. We quote from Warreniana:
“In America we know Mr. Warren only as the tradesman; in Europe, Asia, and Africa, he is spoken of as the poet: and at the Canaries, on my voyage to England, I was told by a Hottentot of his having been unfortunate in love. I was sensibly afflicted at the intelligence, but felt that the illustrious invalid was far, sar above the reach of pity. There are some lofty minds that soar superior to calamity, as the Highlands of the Hudson tower above the clouds of earth. Warren has a soul of this stamp. His majestic spirit may feel, but will not bow before the strong arm of adversity. The blighting winds of care may howl around him in their fury, but like the oak of the forest he will stand unshaken to the last. Besides, it may, perhaps, be to this very accident that his advertisements owe their charm; for the mind, when breathed over by the scathing mildew of calamity, naturally turns for refreshment to its own healing stores of intellect.”
“But it is an humbling reflection for the pride of human intellect, that the value of an object is seldom felt until it be for ever lost. Thus, when the grave has closed around him, the name of Warren may be possibly recalled with sentiments of sincerest affection. At present, while yet in existence, he is undervalued by an invidious vicinity. But the man of letters who speaks of the Strand, speaks of it as the residence of Warren. The intelligent traveller who visits it, enquires where Warren is to be seen. He is the literary landmark of the place, indicating its existence to the distant scholar. He is like Pompey's column at Alexandria, towering alone in classic dignity.”